Spotted Wintergreen

Photo copyright Lauretta Jones.

As you hike through the drier wooded areas of the Angle Fly Preserve, glance down at the sides of the trail and you are likely to see waxy evergreen leaves hugging the ground. They are the leaves of the small native wildflower called Spotted Wintergreen, Striped Wintergreen, or Spotted Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata). The 1 1/2” long pointed, toothed leaves bear a distinctive pattern: dark green with a broad, light-green stripe down the middle.

Most of the year the leaves are all you will find, but in the summer you might spot the Wintergreen’s nodding white or pink blossoms carried high above the leaves on reddish-pink stalks. In the fall, the blossoms are replaced by seed capsules resembling tiny, striped green turban squash.

Spotted Wintergreen must not be popular with deer, as it is one of the most common wildflowers across Angle Fly. Many other plants have been eliminated or suppressed by repeated grazing by the large deer herds. Nonetheless, Spotted Wintergreen is listed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as “Exploitably Vulnerable.” That means it is likely that it could become threatened in the near future if it is not protected. Spotted Wintergreen, like all plants in Angle Fly Preserve, should be enjoyed by taking photographs and should never be picked or disturbed.

That way our grandchildren’s grandchildren may be able to see them, too.

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